The upcoming Dhamra port in Orissa, a private sector enterprise, has kickstarted its efforts to attract cargo before it starts commercial operations in 2010, putting prospects of the Haldia port in West Bengal under jeopardy.
For starters, Dhamra,a 50:50 joint venture between Tata Steel and L&T, has bagged five million tonnes of cargo from Tata Steel.
Situated between Haldia and Paradeep in Orissa's Bhadrak district, Dhamra will be the deepest port of India, with a draft of 18 metres, which can accommodate super cape-size vessels up to 180,000 dead-weight tonnage. In comparison, the Haldia dock system(HDS) managed by the Kolkata Port Trust has been struggling to maintain a 7-metre draft since last year.
Amidst a series of allegations, KoPT decided to go ahead with building barge jetties for transloading operations in order to ensure cargo for the port in the long run. KoPT now plans to have more than a dozen new jetties on the western bank of the channel for both barges and bigger vessels under a hub and spoke model, designed to attract more cargo.
The port had identified four locations north of Oil Jetty-1 to build barge handling terminals with back-up storage area, apart from jetties. Each terminal could have multiple jetties for transloading of cargo from Sagar and other ports like Dhamra and Paradip.
Santosh K Mahapatra, chief executive officer of Dhamra Port Company Ltd, also confirmed the plans about transloading of dry bulk cargo. "But, this is a choice the users of the port have to make. We are in talks with KoPT; however, nothing is concrete yet," he observed. Dhamra could act as the port that will directly import cargo and these could be then re-loaded in barges and reach their hinterland through the Haldia port.
A section of officers of the KoPT who had assembled under the banner of Haldia Dock Officers' Forum, alleged that in a recent meeting with shipping ministry officials, KoPT authorities had agreed to focus more on barge operations.
"The authorities have neglected capital dredging operations for years and now the cost has escalated manifold. They have agreed to reduce Haldia to a minor port", alleged their leader, R K Burman.
When spoken to, A K Chanda, chairman, KoPT, said the cargo for Hooghly Metcoke's plant at Haldia was still with the port. Hooghly Metcoke was promoted by Tata Steel. He also hoped that Tata Steel's Jamshedpur cargo would also remain with the port, as it had already established links with its hinterland.
Mahapatra, however, was banking on Tata Steel's expansion plans at Kalinganagar in Orissa and in the Jharkhand belt. "We will also target liquid and container cargo in the future, especially as the Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemical Investment Region is coming up near Haldia," he added. Dhamra is unlikely to get cargo from the Visakhapatnam PCPIR, as it was in proximity to another deep draft port, Gangavaram in Andhra Pradesh.
DPCL is targeting a 21 mt cargo in the starting of the first phase, to be raised to 25 mt in due course. During Phase-I, DPCL is constructing two fully mechanised berths of 350 metres each, along with back-up facilities for handling imports of coking coal, steam/thermal coal, limestone and export of iron ore. The company is also laying a 62 km rail link from Dhamra to Bhadrak on the main Howrah-Chennai line.
The master plan provides for 13 berths, capable of handling more than 83 mt per annum of dry bulk, liquid bulk, break bulk and containerised cargo.